J’Leon Love was ringside Feb. 23 when Ishe Smith won the IBF junior middleweight title in Detroit. He’s hoping to one day follow in Smith’s footsteps and win a belt of his own.
The middleweight, who was born in Inkster, Mich., and now lives and trains in Las Vegas, takes an important step in that direction Saturday when he faces veteran Gabriel Rosado in a 10-round bout at the MGM Grand Garden on the undercard of the WBC welterweight title fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Robert Guerrero.
“It’s huge for me,” Love said. “To be on the (Showtime) pay-per-view and get a chance like this. I still can’t believe it’s happening.”
Love (15-0, 8 knockouts) was having a tough time getting fights and had been bouncing from promoter to promoter. He helped Antonio Margarito prepare for his 2011 fight against Miguel Cotto, and on a whim he decided to move to Las Vegas a year ago from Michigan in the hopes of reviving his career.
“If you’re a soccer player, you want to be in Brazil or the U.K. If you’re a boxer, you want to be in Vegas,” Love said. “So I moved here, not knowing anyone, just hoping I could find some fights.”
He was working out at the Hit Factory Gym on Paradise Road when word got out that Mayweather was looking for sparring partners to help him prepare for his fight against Cotto last May 5.
Love made his way to Mayweather’s gym off Spring Mountain Road and made a positive impression.
So positive, in fact, that Mayweather signed Love to his promotional company and got him four fights in seven months. His last fight, a 10-round unanimous decision win over Derrick Findley, which came on the undercard of Smith’s win over Cornelius Bundrage, boosted Love’s confidence.
“It was amazing,” he said. “To go back home to Detroit and win in front of my family and friends, it puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.”
But Mayweather wants the 25-year-old Love to realize his vast potential. He wants him to be totally dedicated to boxing. Only then will he be able to get a sniff at a world title.
“I had heard he was slacking off in the gym, and I had a talk with J’Leon,” Mayweather said of a conversation they had a few weeks ago. “I told him that if you’re not going to come in and give 100 percent, then don’t come to the gym.
“He’s got the talent to be a world champion. That’s what I want for him. But he’s got to dedicate himself to it.”
Love, who is trained by Mayweather’s uncle Roger, said he got the message and promises to be ready for Rosado (21-6, 13 KOs).
Rosado has “been around the game,” Love said. “But I have to stand my ground and show him I’m the better man. I’m learning every day. I’m getting better. I see how hard Floyd works and the way everyone in here works, and I know what’s out there for me if I keep winning.”
■ NOTES — Love-Rosado will be the first fight on the Showtime PPV telecast, which begins at 6 p.m. ... Mayweather and Guerrero make their official arrivals at the lobby of the MGM Grand today, with Guerrero’s arrival scheduled for 2:50 p.m. and Mayweather’s for 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.